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What The Potential 2020 Candidates Are Doing And Saying, Vol. 8

Welcome to a weekly collaboration between FiveThirtyEight and ABC News. With 5,000 people seemingly thinking about challenging President Trump in 2020 — Democrats and even some Republicans — we’re keeping tabs on the field as it develops. Each week, we’ll run through what the potential candidates are up to — who’s getting closer to officially jumping in the ring and who’s getting further away.

There are still a number of potential candidates whose entrance into the 2020 field could shake up an already crowded Democratic race, and it appears that many of them are close to revealing their plans.

There’s former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who reportedly ruled out a 2020 Senate run this week but whose celebrity status and fundraising ability could catapult him to the top of the presidential field.

There’s former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is reportedly looking at New York City campaign office space. His appeal to political moderates and billions of dollars would allow him to run a self-funded campaign.

And there’s former Vice President Joe Biden, who said his family is on board and whose strength in name recognition and political experience has made him a de facto favorite since the day President Trump won election in 2016.

While other presidential candidates are beginning to settle into their campaign routines, it won’t be long until the decisions of these three players, and several more, refresh the field, which could force others to recalibrate their strategies.

Here’s the weekly candidate roundup:

Feb. 22-28, 2019

Stacey Abrams (D)
In a podcast interview with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, Abrams said she is “considering” a run for Senate in 2020 against incumbent Georgia Republican Sen. David Perdue.

Michael Bennet (D)
During a trip to Iowa last weekend, Bennet told the Des Moines Register that he is “leaning toward” entering the presidential race. The newspaper also reported that he spent much of his four stops in the Hawkeye State speaking about education — Bennet was the superintendent of Denver Public Schools for four years.

“I think we need an education president,” Bennet told the Register. “There’s no public good that’s more important than education.”

Joe Biden (D)
Biden said Tuesday at a University of Delaware event that his family has signed off on a presidential run, explaining that after a “family meeting,” there was a “consensus.”

“The most important people in my life want me to run,” the former vice president said.

From ABC News:

Joe Biden: In ‘final stages’ of 2020 presidential bid decision

Biden revealed that he is in the “final stages” of making a decision and told The New York Times that a potential campaign would begin during the year’s second quarter.

At the University of Delaware event, Biden said: “I have to make sure that I could run a first-rate effort to do this and make clear where I think the country should go and how to get there. That’s the process going on right now. That’s as straightforward as I can be. I have not made the final decision, but don’t be surprised.”

Michael Bloomberg (D)
Bloomberg picked up a pre-emptive endorsement from fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, who revealed his affinity for the former New York City mayor in an interview with CNBC.

“I think that he knows how to run things, I think that he’s got the right goals for America, he understands people, he understands the market system,” Buffett said.

Politico reported Thursday that representatives of Bloomberg were beginning to look at office space in New York City and interviewing potential staffers.

Bloomberg stopped in Nevada on Tuesday to praise the state’s new gun background check law. During a news conference related to the legislation, he noted that he was still undecided on a presidential run.

Cory Booker (D)
Booker introduced legislation Thursday that would legalize marijuana at the federal level. Several of his 2020 rivals, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris and Kristen Gillibrand, co-sponsored the bill.

In a statement, the New Jersey senator noted that the “war on drugs” disproportionately affected “people of color and low-income individuals.”

On Tuesday, Booker earned the first endorsement from an Iowa state lawmaker, courtesy of state Rep. Amy Nielsen, who pointed to their shared experiences as mayors and Booker’s “message of optimism and unity.”

From ABC News:

Cory Booker is leading FiveThirtyEight’s endorsement tracker

After making his first visit to Nevada last weekend, Booker travels to South Carolina on Friday and Saturday and will speak in Selma, Alabama, Sunday in commemoration of the 1965 “Bloody Sunday” march.

Sherrod Brown (D)
Brown took his “dignity of work” message to Nevada this week, and he said that if he chooses to run for president, he’ll be “the most pro-union candidate.”

“We will have a government on the side of workers, not a government on the side of big corporations,” the Ohio senator told members of the Culinary Union on Saturday in Las Vegas.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday, however, Brown said he has yet to reach a final decision on a presidential run but would do so by the end of March.

Pete Buttigieg (D)
During a visit to California, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, told the San Francisco Chronicle that Democrats need to talk more about their values and shouldn’t make the presidential election solely a referendum on Trump. “We’ve got to have a message that makes sense and that recognizes that this president is going to come and go, so it can’t be all about him,” Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg heads back to Iowa on Monday for his second visit since announcing his presidential exploratory committee, with events in Davenport, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids.

Julian Castro (D)
Castro described himself as the “antithesis of Donald Trump” in an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, saying that he was working to end the country’s divisions and demonstrate “honesty and integrity.”

The former Housing and Urban Development secretary also said that he was going to visit all 50 states as part of his presidential campaign.

Bill de Blasio (D)
The New York City mayor last weekend visited Iowa, where he spoke to a crowd of 40 people at a union hall and met with former Gov. Tom Vilsack.

De Blasio acknowledged that he is “not a candidate at this moment” but argued that Democrats “have to have a progressive as our nominee.”

“We have to be able to speak to working people across our whole country,” he said. “We also have to have a nominee who is believable as a leader in such an important position.”

John Delaney (D)
Delaney visited Clemson University in South Carolina, where he shared his idea for a national service program, discussed developing a national artificial intelligence strategy and was complimentary of the Trump administration’s efforts to engage with North Korea — although he said he was concerned the president would make a “terrible deal,” according to The Greenville News.

Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Gillibrand defended a planned fundraiser at a pharmaceutical executive’s home where tickets cost upwards of $1,000 during a Fox News interview on Monday, saying that the executive in question was a longtime friend and that it was the influence of corporate political action committees that was more problematic.

“I think you do need to get money out of politics,” the New York senator said. “The most important thing we have to do is upend the way our democracy functions. Today, the wealthiest most powerful lobbyists and special interest groups get to write bills in the dead of night.”

In the interview, Gillibrand labeled climate change “the greatest threat to humanity we have” and compared ambitious efforts to combat the issue — such as the “Green New Deal” — to the challenge of putting a man on the moon.

Kamala Harris (D)
The California senator made headlines Tuesday when she told The Root that she believed sex work should be decriminalized, although she cautioned that the issue wasn’t “as simple as that.”

“There is an ecosystem around that that includes crimes that harm people, and for those issues, I do not believe that anybody who hurts another human being or profits off of their exploitation should be free of criminal prosecution,” Harris said. “But when you’re talking about consenting adults, we should consider that we can’t criminalize consensual behavior.”

After spending last weekend in Iowa, Harris made her first visit to Nevada as a presidential candidate on Thursday to hold a town hall and participate in the Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit.

John Hickenlooper (D)
The former Colorado governor continues to take steps toward a presidential run, and an announcement is expected in early March. Last weekend, Hickenlooper held meet-and-greet events in Sioux City and Carroll, Iowa, and spoke at the Story County Democrats’ Annual Soup Dinner.

Larry Hogan (R)
As speculation grows that the Maryland governor could launch a challenge to Trump, Hogan asked in a Washington Post interview why the Republican National Committee was taking steps to declare its support for the president and potentially shutdown primaries.

“If he has unanimous support and everybody is on board, why shut down the normal process?” Hogan said. “It’s almost like a hostage situation.”

Referring to the governor specifically on Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, RNC chair Ronna McDaniel said that any other potential challengers to Trump “have the right to jump in and lose.”

Jay Inslee (D)
The Washington governor is expected to launch a presidential campaign within days. “I’ve been pleased by what I’ve been hearing across the country, that people do want a president that will act on a real emergency, which is climate change,” Inslee said on CBS News’s “Face the Nation.” “Look, we’re fighting real emergencies. The forest fires that are consuming the western United States. They need a president who will rally the nation to a clean energy economy.”

The governor went on to say that climate change would be his “No. 1 priority.”

From ABC News:

2020 Democratic field swells as WA Gov. Inslee launches campaign

Amy Klobuchar (D)
Klobuchar faced criticism after a New York Times report detailed treatment toward her staff that included throwing binders and phones in frustration. The senator’s defenders have characterized the anecdotes as inflated and claimed that as a female politician, Klobuchar is being held to a higher standard of behavior than her male counterparts.

The senator spent last weekend campaigning in South Carolina and New Hampshire, after a visit to Georgia where she met with former President Jimmy Carter.

Beto O’Rourke (D)
The former Texas congressman said Wednesday that he has reached a decision about his political future. And according to a Dallas Morning News report, “people close to” O’Rourke say that won’t include a challenge to Republican Texas Sen. John Cornyn, who is up for re-election in 2020. The Morning News report said that O’Rourke is likely to enter the presidential race and could make an announcement in the next few weeks.

From ABC News:

Who is Beto O’Rourke?

Bernie Sanders (D)
During a CNN town hall, Sanders shared rare praise for Trump, ahead of the president’s meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, describing the summit as a “good idea” if it leads to denuclearization. Also, the Vermont senator outlined his “Medicare-for-all” plan, pledged higher corporate tax rates and said the allegations of sexual harassment within his 2016 campaign were “very painful” and “will not happen again.”

Sanders also pledged to support the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential nominee no matter who that person is, because “Trump has got to be defeated.”

Sanders is holding rallies in Brooklyn and Chicago this weekend, with a stop in between in Selma, Alabama, to speak at the Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Unity Breakfast, which is honoring Sanders’s 2016 rival, Hillary Clinton.

Elizabeth Warren (D)
Warren announced Monday that she will not hold private events that are limited to major donors.

“That means no fancy receptions or big money fundraisers only with people who can write the big checks,” she wrote in a post on Medium. “And when I thank the people giving to my campaign, it will not be based on the size of their donation. It means that wealthy donors won’t be able to purchase better seats or one-on-one time with me at our events. And it means I won’t be doing ‘call time,’ which is when candidates take hours to call wealthy donors to ask for their support.”

In the midst of the Capitol Hill testimony by Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen on Wednesday, the Massachusetts senator said that if she is elected president, “there will be no pardons for anyone implicated in these investigations.”

After visiting New Hampshire last weekend, Warren will spend Friday and Saturday in Iowa, with events in Dubuque, Elkader and Waterloo.

Andrew Yang (D)
In an interview with WMUR in New Hampshire, Yang said he was concerned about the ages of some of his presidential opponents and potential rivals, citing Sanders and Biden, who are 77 and 76 years old, respectively. He added that Trump’s 72 years are “probably playing into his mental health.”

“I do think that given the importance of the position, it would make sense to have some sort of transparency where if someone is past a certain age, then there should be some sort of physical or some sort of health report,” Yang said.

Adam Kelsey is a reporter for ABC News’s political unit.